A time for every purpose under heaven…

Today’s forecast…

Of course, I do live in Alaska. And c’mon, we can’t expect flowers and sunshine when snow is still haunting the shadows and the temps are chilly. There is another meme I have about Spring in Alaska. And it sums up most of our attitudes…

Spring? Nope!

And that’s kinda the mood I am in today – hunkered down in sweats and slippers. I have spent the past 3 days – literally entire days – going through our memory stuff. Totes upon totes worth of the past 37 years of married life with kids – and then some. As I went through – seriously – every, single photo we own and wrote on the back of it, or tossed it, my hand began to ache. I went from 6 totes of loose photos down to three. I am proud of myself.

Organizing old photos…

As I made my way through these boxes and albums, I came to realize that I am the sole storage for most of my family’s histories. And I inherited my grandparents on both sides’ photos – why? Weirdly enough, both of my parents are only children. And I have just 1 brother – who does not like old things. So I got the collective memories from 4 families. And it was daunting. My heart swelled in thanks when something was written on the back. But I have this one album, complete with black pages, and lots of fading photos from one end to the other, with not a single name. I recognized familial traits, so I could narrow it down to my mother’s mother’s maiden name side. Sigh. But that is all. No one person stood out to me. And these photos are from the late 1880s. I did recognize a house my grandmother lived in as a child, so I know for sure it is her side of the family. because I have a mounted photo with names on it, and she is one of the people named. But they are all in New Zealand, no less. There is no one alive I can consult about them, who I know about in the greater familial ties, or even know where to look for them, or a last name to try! And that made me sad. I could not get rid of it. I love history too much. I even saved a couple of photos of people I have no way to identify, but the photos are so awesome. All in sepia and mounted on cardboard with lovely borders. I just could not bring myself to toss them out.

Old photos…

One of the reasons I am doing this is because I am in purge mode. We have too much stuff in our garage. We have hauled the same boxes, unopened, through three states. One of the things we did was go through all our saved, recorded, VHS tapes. We inherited my grandma’s old VHS player and it works! So we plopped in tapes with no labels, understood why no one wrote on them, and tossed them out. LOL! One is from an old family friend, with her narrating, old black and white videos from her family. Not a single video of my family. Not sure why we had it but it is no longer in my video tote! We only kept about 6 VHS tapes. And we watched our wedding video. We both shed a tear at the same song. Isn’t that cool!! We are going to ask my brother-in-law to put these on CDs for us. Isn’t it funny how things become so outdated, you don’t have the machine to play them or view them on??

VHS…oh, the memories!

Another revelation is that our photo records pretty much stopped, or certainly slowed to a trickle, when our oldest son hit high school. And I realized it was because we all went digital. And in a weird way, it made me sort of sad. It is like when I reluctantly transitioned from books you hold and touch and smell to an e-reader. I went kicking and screaming and now my kindle is with me all the time. I marveled at how the first time I traveled with it, I was carrying 600 books in my purse (yeah, I love books). And as this purge went, we also downsized by a lot. We took 6 totes the the local thrift store, full of books. Most of them were great reads, but I had to admit to myself I probably would not read them again, and if I chose to do so, would use my kindle to do it. I gave up my original Twilight series, the Divergent series, a series I bought in college about the Civil War (all 8 volumes of it), some very large books I dove into with relish like Ruska and Peter the Great… but I know I won’t read them again. I did save books my kids read and they are boxed up and ready for them to get in the mail.

Flat Rate!

When people die, they leave behind relished trinkets and photos, slips of cloth, programs from events, ticket stubs, even toys and saved bits of clothing. Some people collect their whole lives and leave stacks and stacks and stacks of stuff. And someone has to go through all that and dispose of it. Sorting through things after someone passes away is a rough task. When my mother-in-law passed away, it was a monumental task. Lots of feelings come out when you go through another person’s things. Especially if they were a collector. When my grandmother passed away, she had been staying with me about 6 months. But I still had to get back to her place and dispose of everything. I did it alone, with the help of my 2 younger boys, schlepping things to the dumpster, the car, and to the local thrift shop in her senior complex. That thrift shop was a sad place, because every single thing in there was only there because someone died. Other seniors would come and go through the things and take what they needed, at no charge to them. It felt good to help others like that, but it also grieved me even more. Grandma had been parsed down to a few boxes. And she was almost 100 years old. It was hard enough caring for her as she died, let alone clearing out all her things. These past few days, I mourned the passing of my family all over again. And I mourned the passing of my life – it has gone by in the wink of an eye.

Time flew past so quickly…

And today I am just tired. So much went through my brain this weekend. So many people I no longer see or even know where they are. Lots of friends and family who are no longer with us. I was watching a VHS tape and started to cry because I realized everyone in the movie, except for my immediate family, are all dead. It happened so quickly. Now I see my children, and their families, fully engaged in their own lives. And so very busy. Pretty soon they will be where I am now – standing outside and watching their own children move along this racing timeline. It caused me to stop and think. And I realized, too, I am one of those old folks that sit on the sidelines, watching the young people. So so weird.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what has been planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
A time for everything…

And so I muse… comings and goings…

“He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.'”            Job 1:21

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”    Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have been musing over many things lately. The Lord’s providence in my life, for sure. I see blessings all around me. And I see the empty places, as well. Sometimes we wonder why we “end up” where we are. I have had some interesting conversations recently with a disparate group of people; some friends, some acquaintances. And I have come to realize that the “empty places” in our lives are sometimes there for our blessing. Even if we notice them and they become bothersome or we become sad for the noticing. 

cartoon-lady-closet

I often see people struggling with their “things” – and our “things” can be literally junk we pay to keep in storage. I had a friend who had a storage unit for all her “seasonal decor” because she was over-the-top at decorating and had no basement space to store her decorations for every holiday. So she paid for a storage unit, where she kept each season’s/holiday’s decorations. She always had her house perfectly decorated for every holiday, often using a professional to assist her. But I never got over the fact that she spent money on a storage unit to keep all that stuff. I have friends who are constantly “cleaning out” or “organizing.”  I completely get that. When we left our large home and downsized in California, and then when we left California for Washington, we got rid of a lot of extra furniture, and decor.  We simply had no place to put it. When we finally relocated up to Alaska in a 30-foot U-Haul truck, I downsized in a large way. We live very simply, but I am constantly getting “the urge to purge”!  Our things, or attachment to them, can weigh us down in so many ways. I love that saying, “You can’t take it with you” and the quote from Job at the beginning of this post sort of brings that out – “Naked I cam from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.” Our things are here to assist us, to make life easier, and to bring us joy.  Have you ever walked into a museum and been brought to a hushed silence in awe of what you are seeing? Oh, I have.  On several occasions.  A memorable one was a trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for an exhibit of Icons and Illuminated Manuscripts from Saint Catherine’s in the Sinai Desert. I could not even speak, but just whisper in the presence of some of these original icons, holy artifacts, and manuscripts. That is a case of storing things for a purpose!

Illuminate manuscript

The Lord allows us to experience the fruits of creation throughout our lives. Being in the presence of those who are creative, for me, is overwhelming at times. I am not very good at things “artistic” and am in awe of artists. I have wept at ballets, especially when my very gifted daughter-in-law danced in a production in college. I have wept at plays and operas. Once the “Phantom of the Opera” began and Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman sang, I started weeping and did not stop until it was over. What an experience to see them in person, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles! So, so blessed. We are given people and things to make life especially joyful and to bless us in a special way.  But there are times for all these things, for all these people, and all these experiences.  And there is also time for simple, quiet, and unadorned. “For everything there is a season.” 

Take people out of your life

I have come to the conclusion that sometimes we hang on to people, and have them in a sort of “storage unit” just in case. It is not fair to ourselves, nor them. Because of social media, the word, “friend,” has been highly – ridiculously – over used. There are, in fact, very few friends in our lives. We have acquaintances by the score through social media sites like Facebook, but how many friends?  I mean, real, honest, “lay-their-life-down-for-you,” friends?

No one at funeral

Why do we place such emphasis on Social Media? Is it really necessary in our lives? It has come to replace real-life interaction, in so many cases. I have seen wedding invitations only on Facebook. Birth, graduation, divorce announcements, only on Facebook. Communicating with friends, only on Facebook. So many not commenting at all, just watching everything on Facebook (how creepy is that?). The ability to be that much removed from someone gives people a lot of leeway in their communicating. Some people revel in the anonymity of Twitter and Facebook and Snap Chat. They are removed from directly interacting with people, allowing them to say some of the most outrageous and hurtful things. And it’s one of the profound ways I have seen my “Christian” friends behave very, very un-Christ-like. How easy it is to cut people down and be cruel, without having to look them in the face and see the hurt you cause them. In addition, the milieu itself is completely artificial. It is not real life. Just like reality TV is not real. (Cannot believe how many people don’t get that whole premise). We are playing to our worst selves, by allowing this computer I am using and the screen I see to be the sole way we know one another, or communicate. And do not even get me started on cell phones, especially “smart phones.” It’s one of the ways we disconnect from people, even in a crowded room. I am guilty of this and is one of the myriad of reasons for my musing, and posting, today.

High Tea

One of my most-favored places for communicating is a local coffee house. Not Starbucks, because those are more for the computer-using workaholic/college student. No, I mean a real coffee house, or tea shop. I love high tea. (If you’ve never gone to a real, British High Tea, try it sometime. It is delicious and wonderful and one of my most treasured memories with my dearly departed Grandma). These days, I love choosing a delicious scone and trying a new brew concoction, and then sitting down with a close friend and gabbing away the hours. I have friends I have moved away from and we have reminisced that those are the times we miss the most – coffee around my kitchen table, often with bread baking in the oven (especially when we lived on dairy farms!). I have realized that people and things are put in our paths for our enlightenment, our joy, our appreciation, by a gracious God, Who loves us. 

I cannot save everything I have ever owned, and everyone cannot stay my friend. Perhaps we don’t share the same activities, the same lives, any longer. It is okay to say goodbye to a friendship, just like that comfy sweater or favorite pair of jeans. Some relationships are formed out of camaraderie and convenience. When either support is removed, the friendship falls apart. And it is okay to lose a relationship that way, most especially if it was based on things like soccer schedules and living next door, or carpooling and church attendance. When we move on, we take aspects of these people and things with us. We have grown because of them, and hopefully learned from them. We move on. 

cartoon-coffee-cup-clip-art-196859

When I was younger, my grandmother gifted me with her tea cup collection. God bless her. Each cup had a story, and I remember them distinctly. I have been blessed with sons. Sons do not care about tea cups. What am I going to do with these tea cups? I chose to gift them, a couple at a time, to people who mean something to me. Sharing my Grandmother’s tea cups became a way I could leave a part of myself with others who have shared my life. And each tea cup I give away, I write down the story my Grandma told me about that cup. I cannot keep all these cups and saucers. There are so many of them, as in literally dozens of them. Some of them appeal to me and I will probably hold onto them longer, but some are not my particular “cup of tea” and so I can gift them a bit easier. I am planning on each grand daughter, and daughter-in-law, receiving tea cup sets. Some have cookie plates with them, that are for enjoying high tea. But I am slowly gifting them all away, as I know I cannot take them with me (as in the quote from Job above). The same holds true for friends. It is okay to give them up, to let them go. Each person, each thing, has a time in our lives. It is difficult sometimes to let people go; we mourn that particular relationship and we miss the person. But it is healthier to allow the relationship to wither on its own, and allow God to work in our lives by allowing new people into it.

And I am feeling more and more confident that as I age (and hopefully mature) and my circles tighten and shrink, that it is okay. It is also okay to become quieter. Sometimes keeping silent in the face of harsh words, whether spoken or written, is the “better part of valor.” (To paraphrase Shakespeare). Discretion, being that better portion, can be said to be silence in many instances. We can be discrete in how we handle ourselves insofar as friendships, both the making and letting go. As I was perusing my “friends” on social media, I came to see that the ones I hold especially dear are not a part of the social media frenzy, and it is not how we communicate. Several on there I also communicate with through emails, and shockingly enough, actual conversations. My closest friends will stay my friends whether or not I post my status on Facebook for that day. So as I ease into my 60s, I am seeing that my life can quiet down, can be even more simplified through the purging of social media outlets, as well as too many “things” in my life. Simplicity is something I think God appreciates. A simple, direct approach to life is actually freeing. Keeping your schedule simple, your “appointments” simple is also a way to be more in touch with God. Less time with others is more of an opportunity to spend in quiet contemplation. Do not get me wrong, I will still go to museums, plays, concerts when I can. I will attend school plays and productions for my grandchildren when I can. I will continue to dine with friends, and meet for a “cuppa” at the local coffee house. I am not locking myself away. But I am being more discrete in more aspects of my life. Sometimes all this “stuff” out there just gets to be too much.

sit with you lord